On Date Setting and the Return of Christ, Part One

For the past 2000 years undiscerning and reckless Christians have been setting dates for when Christ would return – and this despite the clear teaching of Jesus that no man knows when he will return. We are clearly told not to set dates for his Parousia, yet believers have been doing this all the time.

Of course certain times attract more of these date setters than others. A change of millennium is always a good one for such folks. Surely the new millennium will usher in the return of Christ. Well, we are now into the third millennium of the Christian church, and as far as I can tell, Jesus has not yet come back.

But there are plenty of folks out there who are absolutely convinced that they know when Christ will return and the world will end – and they are by no means afraid to tell others about it either. In fact some are quite bold (or reckless) in these matters.

Consider one comment I received just recently: “this is further truth that judgment day is at the door. JESUS said satan would take his seat in the temple {churches}. GET OUT NOW! may, 21,2011 is the day of rapture. don’t be left behind! go to family http://radio.com , for complete details from GOD’S WORD THE BIBLE. Peace”

Perhaps this fellow was too busy packing his bags, because he did not even get the website right. It is in fact http://www.familyradio.com/index2.html . This is what it says on its home page:

“‘…blow the trumpet…warn the people’
Ezekiel 33:3
Judgement Day
May 21, 2011

Well there you have it folks. According to this site, the Bible guarantees that May 21, 2011 is to be judgment day, and the rapture will take all true believers off the planet on that day. I was going to defer posting this article till May 22, but I think I can rather confidently post it now.

And I will be so bold as to say that this is a load of rubbish, pure and simple. There are various reasons why I make this claim. Consider what else they say. If you go to their website you will find more of this baloney. Here is what the website says in its FAQS section:

What if May 21 ends and nothing occurs? The Biblical evidence is too overwhelming and specific to be wrong. Christ’s people can look with great confidence to this date because God promises His ‘beloved’ He will not come upon them as a thief in the night. God in His mercy has revealed the vital information needed to know the day. Judgment Day on May 21, 2011 will occur because the bible declares it. Anyone whom God has not saved will arrive at that day with no hope for salvation. God warns simply the ‘door will be shut’.”

So just who is this all-knowing fellow who has more insight than the rest of the Body of Christ put together? This is what the website says:

Who is Harold Camping? Harold Camping is the President and General Manager of Family Stations, Inc. He graduated from UC Berkeley in 1942 with a degree in civil engineering. Mr. Camping has been a full-time volunteer since Family Radio’s infancy and has never received compensation for his service.

What Qualifies Mr. Camping to make the pronouncement of May 21, 2011? Mr. Camping has been a tireless student of the Bible for over five decades. The tens of thousands of hours he has spent analyzing the Bible has given him a unique perspective of the entirety of Scripture. He has dedicated his life to prepare himself to answer questions raised concerning God’s Word to man.”

So is he a Bible scholar? A theology professor? A pastor? A teacher? Nope, he is a civil engineer, but his study of Scripture has revealed what billions of other Christians have missed. This guy is, in other words, a fruit loop, and a false prophet to boot.

I say this quite deliberately because this guy has been up to this nonsense before. And he has been discredited before – big time. He actually wrote a book in 1992 called 1994? In it he confidently asserted that “When September 6, 1994 arrives, no one else can be saved, the end has come.”

The book was a best-seller at the time. It was best-selling deception of course. When the date came and went he had to do some recalculations, and said it would be mid-September. When that period came and went, he said it would be September 29. After another big no-show by Jesus Christ, he reset the date to October 2. Then he went for March 31, 1995.

Yet the incredible thing is he is still going at it, and he still has his devoted – and deluded – followers. Like all cultists and heretics, he has all sorts of other delusional beliefs and heterodox teachings. He believes all churches, except for his, are apostate, and he denies the biblical doctrine of hell, preferring the false belief in annihilationism instead. He brazenly pushed his false prophecies in the past, and now he is doing the very same again, with new publications pushing the May 21, 2011 date.

And guess what? When May 21 comes and goes, with no return of Christ, he will undoubtedly be at it again, making new calculations, readjusting his prophetic clock, and so on. His false prophecies will likely keep going on until he dies.

But sadly there are so many other believers in the same boat, thinking they have an inside knowledge of things God specifically said we cannot have. There are plenty of these self-appointed prophets who do nothing but bring complete shame and disgrace on Christ and his church.

Of course it is not just Christians who warn of the end of the world – and make fools of themselves in the process. Plenty of non-Christians also do the same. Many for example are looking to 2012 as the real end of all things. I have written this up here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2009/11/17/2012-and-the-end-of-the-world/

Failed date-setters

As mentioned, throughout history there have been plenty of those who claimed to know when the end of the world would take place – both believers and nonbelievers. Consider just a few examples of the many dates which have been set and the many predictions which have been made:

-An Italian monk, Joachim of Fiore, predicted the end would come in A.D. 1260.

-Anabaptists in the 1500s felt that Martin Luther was the Antichrist and the millennial kingdom was about to begin.

-One Anabaptist, Jan Matthys, took control of the German city of Munster in 1534, proclaiming it to be the New Jerusalem. Churches were looted, books were burned, private property was confiscated, and the ‘godless’ were killed or expelled. It ended in a bloodbath a year later.

-When the French marched on Rome and banished the Pope in 1798, many felt that Rev 13:3 was being fulfilled.

-Mary Bateman, a fortune teller, claimed to have a magic chicken which laid eggs with end time messages on them. One message said that Christ was coming in 1809. Her career abruptly ended when she was caught forcing an egg into the hen’s oviduct.

-An American Baptist, William Miller, forerunner of the Seventh-day Adventists, predicted that the world would end in 1843.

-In August 1844 a zealous follower of his, Samuel S. Snow got even more specific, declaring October 22, 1844 to be the exact date of the end.

-In 1910 all sorts of end times’ scenarios were played out with the return of Haley’s comet. Many saw it as a sure sign of the end of the world. Since the earth in fact passed through the gaseous tail of the comet, one guy keen to earn a fast buck sold comet pills to provide protection against the toxic effects of the gases.

-Doomsday teacher Charles R. Taylor may be the prize-winner here, with confident predictions that the rapture would occur in 1975. When that did not quite transpire, he said it would definitely be 1976. Then 1980. Then 1981, 1982, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1992, and 1994!

-In 1984 Pentecostal preacher Lester Sumrall wrote I Predict 1985. He obviously got that one wrong, but undeterred, and evidently still keen to make some easy cash, he wrote another volume in 1987 called I Predict 2000. We await his next volume with keen interest – not.

-In 1988 Edgar C. Whisenant wrote an incredibly bold – and obviously fallacious – book, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Could Be in 1988. At least he used the weasel-word “could” here so he could back himself out of the corner somewhat.

-An Australian cultic group claimed that Jesus would return at 9 a.m., March 31, 1991 – and he would come through the Sydney Harbour!

-In April 1991 Joseph Good told the audience of the Trinity Broadcasting Network that the rapture would definitely occur by the year 2000. He based this on a specious understanding of Hosea 6:2 and John 2:19.

-In the October 20, 1991 issue of USA Today a Korean Christian sect took out a full-page ad with these words:
OCTOBER 28, 1992

-On October 28, 1992 members of the Dami Missionary Church in Seoul, South Korea eagerly awaited the rapture. Many had sold all their belongings. But it didn’t occur as their leader Lee Jang Rim had predicted. He was later arrested for fleecing his flock of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

-On April 19, 1993, around 80 Branch Davidians, including 25 children, were killed by government forces at Waco, Texas. The leader, David Koresh, believed he was the promised Messiah.

Needless to say, all these guys got it wrong. But that has not stopped these false prophets from doing their thing, over and over again. In Part Two of this article I will examine this issue in more detail, and focus on what the Bible has to say about all this end times speculation.

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12 Replies to “On Date Setting and the Return of Christ, Part One”

  1. Hi Bill – I’ll never forget a discussion I had with someone about Whisenant’s book predicting 1988. He said the book “really made a lot of sense.” Unfortunately the conversation happened in 1994, six years AFTER it didn’t happen. I burst out laughing, and just said “But it didn’t happen!”
    Ed Sherman

  2. Harold Camping must have a different Bible to me. I can’t find that infomation in mine. However am delighted to know that it is the 21st May and not the 11th otherwise my husband and I would have missed out on celebrating our 48th wedding anniversary. Only 2 more years to go to get to the big 50. God willing we will both be alive and well to share the great day.

    Why do people fall for this type of rubbish? We might be more informed than previous generation but the coming of Jesus is known to him alone. What we need to do is make sure we are ready to face our Maker when the time comes.

    Madge Fahy

  3. Joel C. Rosenberg has credible and interesting stuff on signs of the end times that doesn’t get involved in predicting a date but does what Jesus commanded and that is to observe the signs;


    His book Epicenter: Why the Current Rumblings in the Middle East Will Change Your Future is a must read for Christians;


    Damien Spillane

  4. Madge, we know that the Father knows the day and the hour.
    Matt Vinay

  5. I and I hope most of your readers obviously know from Scripture that no date can be set for our Savior’s return, but let’s not forget the importance for all believers to understand that we are indeed in the end times, and to be prepared for Him when He does return. That is what the Word clearly commands us to do. God bless.

    Louis Young
    Conway, AR

  6. Unbelievable!

    I looked at their website and burst out in laughter. Anyone can spend some time and work on a calculation to get to the answer you want – we call it engineering.

    Funny how he only uses the scripture and numbers that fits into his false prophesy.

    Werner Peens

  7. Hi Bill,

    I would guess that 96five Family in Queensland (a fantastic Christian radio station) would be pretty unhappy about this cult advertising as ‘Family Radio’ on billboards. Hoping nobody get the 2 mixed up! They are 2 very different entities.

    Scott Haas

  8. Hey Bill, you’re being too harsh. If we predict every day of every year for the rest of time, we’re bound to get it right eventually 🙂

    I just wish these idiots would pour their money into worthwhile ministries that are genuinely reaching the lost than spend their vast sums on duping some poor dopes who don’t know their Bibles well enough to refute the idiocy.

    What was that scripture again about little ones, millstones and the sea again?

    Mario Del Giudice

  9. Hi Bill, I certainly do not consent to the setting of dates regarding Christ’s return but I think these liars are helping to stir up a sleeping church. Much of the church today is asleep – living as though Christ will never return. Most saints just don’t care about the Ministry of reconciliation committed to us by the Lord and are in fact spiritually unkempt. Such liars wake us up to the realization that Jesus is indeed returning soon.
    Michael Ntanu

  10. Jesus told a parable about a master who went away on a long trip. He said the master would be pleased if he found his servants doing their job when he returned, not sitting on the front porch waiting for him.

    Jesus may come tomorrow, I may die tomorrow. The answer is to live each day to the full for his glory not to stockpile good and make decisions based on a perceived time limit.

    Kylie Anderson

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